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PHR and ACP Support Saudi Doctors Who Refuse to Harm Patients

by Susannah Sirkin, MEd on September 2, 2010

PHR and the American College of Physicians (ACP) have sent a letter to the Saudi Minister of Health to support Saudi physicians and hospitals who have refused to inflict punitive harm on their patients.

Amnesty International has reported that a court in Tabuk, in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, has approached a number of hospitals asking about the possibility of cutting a man's spinal cord in order to carry out a punishment of "qisas" (retribution), which has been requested by the injured victim, as is his right to seek under sharia law.

One hospital did say it would be possible to injure the man's spinal cord in the same place as the damage he was alleged to have caused his victim in a fight more than two years ago. The accused used a cleaver which resulted in the victim's paralysis.

In previous retribution cases, Saudi courts have passed sentences that have include eye removal and tooth extraction, in a literal interpretation of "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". The court may decide, however, not to impose the paralysis punishment; the man has already been sentenced to seven months imprisonment for the crime. 

The British Medical Journal's Peter Moszynski, in writing about this judgment, quotes Frank Donaghue, PHR's CEO, who said, “In this day and age it is unthinkable that medical doctors would consider using their training and skill to intentionally harm another human being as part of a judicial process. It would be a violation of medical ethics in the extreme. This case is cause for legal institutions everywhere to scrutinize their laws to ensure that doctors are able to comply with their most basic duty to do no harm.”


Places: Saudi Arabia

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